Edinson Cavani came off the bench and scored twice to inspire Manchester United to a 3-2 win over Southampton at St.Mary’s.
Jan Bednarek and a free-kick from James Ward-Prowse had given the hosts a 2-0 lead before Bruno Fernandes and Cavani saved the day for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in the last half-hour.
Here is what we made of it …
The majority of people scoffed at the thought of a 34-year-old Edinson Cavani signing for Manchester United, with critics suggesting this was another example of Ed Woodward bringing in a ‘Hollywood name’ to keep the fans happy.
Well, we all might have to eat our words after today’s showing on the south coast.
The Uruguayan jumped from the bench at half-time and produced two decisive headers to snatch a victory from the jaws of defeat, something Manchester United used to be perfectionists at pulling off.
This is what Cavani has a knack for, scoring big goals in big games at decisive moments.
United looked far more balanced as a team in the second half with Cavani the spearhead up-front. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had started the game with a diamond formation but the duo of Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood in attack failed to make the ball stick in the first half.
Cavani got United up the pitch and managed to bring Bruno Fernandes and Donny van de Beek into the game more regularly, while Rashford was able to be more effective with a partner occupying the centre-halves for him.
Surely he has done enough to earn a place from the start against his former club PSG in midweek.
More than just penalties
Bruno Fernandes deserves more respect than his name than just being called ‘Penandes’.
The 26-year-old was pivotal to Man United’s comeback this afternoon with a goal and an assist in the second half, and was the only player who looked up to scratch during a dour first half.
United’s results over the long-term have improved since the arrival of the Portuguese midfielder in January and perhaps he deserves more credit for what he brings to this team.
Fernandes’ knits everything together for United and is for the majority of the time their only source of creativity.
The way he confronts the rest of his teammates regularly shows the characteristics he possesses, but you have to wonder if he is starting to get more and more frustrated with the level of some of the players around him.
United got away with one today and were incredible in the second half, but that can’t paper over the cracks of some of the dross on display in the first 45 minutes.
JWP for England? 🦁
James Ward-Prowse 🤝 set-pieces
It’s a partnership for the ages. The Southampton captain is just ridiculously effective at a dead ball situation, as he proved with an assist and a goal from a corner and free-kick respectively this afternoon.
The whipping technique that he possesses is so deadly to the opposition, as David de Gea and Manchester United’s defence found out today.
The criticism against the 26-year-old comes towards other areas of his game and that he perhaps doesn’t contribute in open play more often than he should.
Saints head coach Ralph Hasenhüttl has clearly sought to improve that with Ward-Prowse being turned into a combative midfielder that aids as a ball-winner in a 2-man centre-midfield for the team.
Ward-Prowse is adding more to his game, and although Southampton could benefit from more incisive passing in open play, his unrivalled ability with a dead ball is a productive tool to have.
Could it be a tool Gareth Southgate could do with at the Euros next summer?